Ultrafast dynamics in a molecular photoswitch

An international collaboration including researchers from Oxford Chemistry has studied the ultrafast dynamics of the molecule quadricyclane by a combination of experimental measurements and simulations, published today in Nature Chemistry.

Quadricyclane and norbornadiene are two isomers that interconvert upon absorption of ultraviolet light. Quadricyclane is the more strained isomer and can be used to store solar energy, which is then released by a catalytic process as heat. So-called molecular solar thermal (MOST) devices exploit such isomer pairs to, for instance, warm houses by absorbing energy from the sun during the day and then releasing it at night.

The current experiment used time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy performed at the FERMI free-electron laser facility in Trieste, Italy. It tracked the conversion between the two isomers on a timescale of femtoseconds, tracking the re-arrangements of the nuclei and the electrons that accompany the isomerisation.

The experiment was interpreted with the help of state-of-the-art computer simulations done in Oxford. The combined experimental-theoretical study sheds new light on the role of fast dynamics and electron-nuclei couplings in controlling the outcome and efficiency of this important class of photoreactions.

Read more today in Nature Chemistry.